Thirsty for Knowledge: My Wine Education Journey

I have been drinking wine for a long time. I even sort of prided myself on being knowledgeable about wine. After all, I read Wine Spectator from time to time... many years ago, and I felt I knew more than most people around me, such as how to pronounce cabernet sauvignon. But over the last few months, wine and I have become very serious, and I finally started down the path of wine certifications. What I know now is that I knew so very little about wine. Seriously. So. Very. Little.

I completed my WSET Level 1 Award in Wines in June, passing the 30-question exam with a score of 93%. That course was so much fun and made me feel like a rock star. But that rock star feeling didn't last long. In July I decided to move on to the Level 2 Award in Wines and Spirits. The time in class gets longer and the book gets thicker at Level 2. The course content was quite the jump from Level 1, and I remember sitting the exam feeling as if I didn't know the answers to way too many of the questions. I went home feeling that I more than likely failed. I remember being a bit afraid when the email from American Wine School popped into my inbox a couple weeks later. I was not only relieved but absolutely delighted to see that I passed! About six weeks later, I received my certificate and pin in the mail, along with my official score: 68%, a far cry from the 93% I scored on the Level 1 exam. I was disappointed in myself, because in my world as an educator, 68% is equivalent to a D. I felt Dumb. Then I realized a score of 70% would have earned me a Pass with Merit designation. So close to merit. Ugh. But I passed, and I was happy with that. I could move on if I wanted to. And since the bug had bitten me, I wanted to.

My WSET Level 1 and Level 2 pins

I wasted no time in registering for Level 3 (a five-day course and a 200-page book). I received my book around mid-August and began studying immediately. I had read the whole darn book plus immersed myself as much as possible in all things wine for the two months leading up to the course meeting. I am not exaggerating. Wine Studies was listed on my daily To Do list. I listened to podcasts, watched documentaries, read magazines (Decanter and Wine & Spirits), bought and read more books, read blogs, attended a wine festival, signed up for wine events. I felt confident heading into my Level 3 course. However, on Day 1 of the course, I felt once again that I knew nothing. Holy Anxiety. On Day 2, I felt I really didn't belong there and even felt maybe I should just go home and forget about all of it. But I calmed myself down and stuck it out and took that three-hour exam three days later because, really, the only thing that will be lost in failing the exam is my ego.

Now it's done, and I am awaiting the results of my WSET Level 3 Award in Wines exam. It takes two months to receive the results, and only 50% of those who take the exam pass. Frightening odds. As I wait I ponder whether I want to go on to the next and final WSET level, the much revered Diploma in Wines and Spirits.

After putting so much time and energy into the Level 3 course, the day after my exam felt so odd. There was the strange silence of "Now What?" What do I do with myself over the next two months while I await my exam results? I was afraid I would be tired of it all once the exam was over and feel as if I was simply done with wine now. But that wasn't how I felt at all. Instead, I felt even more interested and more motivated to continue on with the journey. Less than 48 hours after taking my WSET Level 3 exam, I registered for the French Wine Scholar certification with the Wine Scholar Guild. I signed up for the online course so that I could start immediately. I want to keep building on what I have learned rather than start forgetting it.

When I tell friends I am working on wine certifications, they think I plan to make wine. I am asked what I will do with these wine certifications. I don't have much of an answer. I state that I would like to work at a winery in a tasting room or as a wine educator or as a wine writer. I think maybe I would like to be a wine ambassador or a sales representative. Hell, I really don't know where this path will lead. Like a lot of things, time will tell. But this is what I am most interested in at this juncture. So here I go again.

Cheers to the journey!


SiouxGeonz said…
You're a wine nerd :) Go for it!
Deborah said…
Yes! And thank you!

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